Wednesday 22 May 2013: State Of Nature - Iolo Williams
One of the wonderful "perks" of being a RSPB volunteer is that you get invited to some pretty interesting events. I was invited to just such an event tonight in Cardiff Bay. I went along with Dawn to the Techniquest centre for the official launch of the State Of Nature report.
In an unprecedented move twenty five of our conservation organisations got together and did a stock check of all the flora and fauna within the British Isles. Everything was covered, from lichen to Linnets, from butterflies to barnacles. The results were truly staggering. Just over sixty percent of the wildlife in this country is in decline, thirty percent of that in serious and critical decline. The amount of habitat loss the major factor in these declines, climate change and human activity the rest. This report makes no bones about it, we are eroding the biodiversity in this country to the point where common bird, plants, animals and insects will become extinct. Vast swathes of the countryside nothing more than grassy deserts.
The report highlights that population decline in birds is not just decreasing, but the rate of reduction is actually increasing year on year. There has been thirty percent declines in some species in just the last five years. This is in effect a mass extinction event that is occurring. I don't know about you but I don't think the history books will judge us very well in a thousand years time.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Iolo Williams. I am not sure what speech they expected Iolo to give, but I am fairly sure it was not the one he gave. It was deeply moving, emotional and in the end utterly venomous. Several times during his talk I could feel myself welling up as he described how his "local patch" had changed from his childhood. How ninety nine percent of hay meadows have now gone ... NINETY NINE PERCENT! That is a complete ecosystem removed overnight in ecological terms! But he saved his vitriol until the end. He said he didn't blame the farmers or the fishermen, who are just doing what they can under the rules they currently have. He said he blamed the fat, pencil pushing bureaucrats that sit behind a desk all day and just discuss and never action. He said that their time will come, not by the hands of the public and not now, but in forty or so years time, when they are sitting reading their grandchildren a bed time story, and he may just describe a lush meadow full of Lapwings, Tortoiseshell Butterflies and screaming Swifts, and their grandchild will look at them and say grandchild will ask if he ever so any of those things, as they are now all gone, and ask what it was like. After they had described it, they will look down at their grandchild and he or she will be asked, but granddad didn't you used to be a big name in conservation why didn't you stop it happening. Iolo continued, it will be then and only then, whilst you sit with your big fat pension that you will realise your entire career amounted to absolutely nothing.
It really was powerful stuff! I swear to you if he would called us to march on the assembly building next door we all would have gone willingly, screaming with our war faces! It was one of the best bits of oratory I have heard in a very, very long time!
This was not a night for "fluffy" conservation. This was the sharp end of the stick. We had a live link up with Sir David Attenborough in London, he used the phrase a "call to arms". That was what the evening was all about. This is a line in the sand. The whole report gets repeated in four or five years time. The time for talking has ended, the time for action has begun. I think you will see a fundamental shift in the positions of the NGO's in the coming months and years. The press released will become far stronger worded. We are destroying the very ecosystem we rely on to provide our everyday needs, the House Sparrow, the common bumblebee, the meadow butterflies, our seabirds, the marine environment around this wonderful coastline of ours, the woodlands are all dying, we are at war with them. We will be the eventual losers.
It's a sobering thought isn't it ....